houses, Indoor / Outdoor

Creative Joburg Abode

Styling Leana Schoeman; Photographs Aubrey Jonsson


You might expect the home of a pair of art directors to be stylistically sussed, with thoughtfully curated scenes and a collection of possessions that begs to be looked at – and you’d be right. The Emmarentia, Johannesburg, house belonging to Gina and Bruce Anderson captures the spirit of summer, breathing light from its very core. But its ‘wow’ factor unmistakably comes from its design-savvy owners’ knowing touch.

After Bruce bought the property in 2007 from a couple who had called it home for 65 years, he carried out a series of changes that transformed the way he and Gina live in their space today. This entailed knocking down the wall between the living, kitchen and dining areas, extending the windows to floor level and masking the face-brick facade. Above all, a sense of calm was achieved through a more spacious interior coupled with a brighter, breezier living space. ‘The architectural details, including the porthole windows and custom-designed steel-framed doors, are a modern throwback to the house’s 1950s look and feel,’ explains Bruce.

It is laid out in an L-shape with all three bedrooms facing north toward the poolside. A garden flanks the front and back of the building, while a small courtyard oasis is hemmed in by the main bedroom and bathroom. At the short arm of the L, the living, dining and kitchen area is open plan, allowing the patio to be viewed from as far back as the living room. The pool room, renovated from former domestic quarters, is apart from the house and, with its basic shape and stark white walls, has a wonderful minimalism to it.

Unexpected design details make the home uniquely theirs, from the round windows to the wooden decks outside that nod to seaside simplicity. The decision to build a set of decked ramps outside in place of stairs was an endearing move to make life easier for Miss Molly, the couple’s basset hound, who has a degenerative arthritis deformity. ‘In retrospect,’ says Bruce, ‘they lend a beach-boardwalk feel to the exterior and are less intrusive than stairs.’

The Anderson’s home is filled with family keepsakes and travel mementos, conveying an originality that resonates deeply with the couple and serves to catalogue their lives. Some of their most cherished belongings include those attached to personal anecdotes. ‘Our bed, custom-designed by Pedersen + Lennard, was a collective wedding gift from all of our friends,’ explains Gina. The round mirror in the family bathroom belonged to Bruce’s grandfather; Gina’s parents owned the armchairs, now reupholstered, in their lounge; and a map of Rio de Janeiro is a souvenir from what they affectionately call their ‘second honeymoon’.

While work demands huge amounts of energy from both of them, downtime is a wholesome affair that includes walking their three dogs in the nearby park, cycling for Bruce and, in Gina’s case, time spent at her sewing machine. When it’s warm they relish the cool of the interior and its vibrant atmosphere. Opting against curtains, on balmy evenings they go to sleep with the shutters locked from the inside and the doors open to the night air, so they can wake up blissfully to the sound of birds.

The Andersons’ home breathes a sense of ease not unlike that of a holiday house. That’s thanks to an abundance of light-infused rooms whose mix of shades aims to lift the spirits. The effect is enhanced by details such as top-hung slatted shutters that slide back to invite the outdoors in, crisp lines and contrasting accents. With a collected aesthetic that leans toward a honed design ethos, Bruce and Gina’s tastes have been established through a shared professional passion and the ability to inherently edit what they see. ‘It’s less of a style and more about picking out the things we come across,’ says Gina. ‘We’ll never head to one store to kit out an entire space with a blanket look and feel.’

This article was originally featured in the November 2012 issue of House and Leisure.